Im wirklichen Leben

While I look forward to screening Voyageuse in Dublin and Bristol in the coming weeks, I’m also aware – if sad – that it’s probably the last time the film will appear on the big screen. I’ve concluded that, for the moment at least, the effort needed to promote the film is outweighed by my need to focus on a new project.

Time has a way of slipping, unannounced, into the future. This is especially true amid the current pre-Brexit uncertainty because who knows where any of us will be by April 2019? Three weeks ago, my husband, Owen signed us up for a 16-week course in German at the Goethe Institute in Glasgow. His motive, informed partly by his attempt to gain German citizenship through his maternal grandfather, he knows is well-intentioned but unlikely to succeed. The other reason for improving our German will, I hope, prove more practical in the near future.

For the past year I’ve been contemplating my next project. After making Voyageuse I spent most of 2017 researching the life of Tom Polgar, a relative of Erica’s referred to several times in the film and whose career at the CIA is certainly worthy of a movie. Having pieced together Polgar’s timeline, my question – where do I begin with this story? – has made me realise the scale and ambition of the task. In the process I’ve become well-acquainted with not only his history but that of the CIA and recently I settled on a particular episode that epitomises his entire career.

Of course, to progress Polgar means committing to a spec script since no one is going to fund an unrepresented writer for a screenplay set in the United States. Again I’m in that place where I’m damned if I do and if I don’t. The story’s too good to toss but I also know enough to know the timescale and expense involved just to get to a first draft and to shop it. So I ask myself, if I want to make another film, what is within my reach?

Last September something occurred that shook me. My 21-year-old nephew, Calum took his own life when he threw himself into the River Clyde. This happened on the same month when, seven years previously, my brother Ross, aged 40, also committed suicide on his third attempt. The news today reports the UK Government appointment of a ‘suicide minister,’ or rather, a Minister for Suicide Prevention which, depending on one’s perspective, is either a positive acknowledgement of the scale of the nation’s mental health problems or a piece of stunt casting that fails to take account of the consequences of the government’s own austerity-driven policies.

Nothing any government can say or do will bring my late nephew and brother back. All I know is that for generations my own family has been prone to depression, alcohol and drug misuse and self-harm, much of it due to poverty, stress and lack of prospects. What I also know is how poor mental health can affect anyone regardless of their class, income and education. I know too that I’m not immune. It’s why I believe Voyageuse was worth the effort given the extent of Erica’s silent suffering over several decades.

Rather than polish my grief and put it on the mantelpiece however, I’ve decided to make a film close to both heart and home. As mentioned in my previous post, it’s called – for the moment – Tilo in Real Life. Its themes are wide-ranging: the end of consumerism, the free market cult, the legacy of de-industrialisation, the death of culture and young male depression – hardly the stuff of your typical punch-the-air feelgood Friday night movie. The handful of people who know me and who’ve heard my pitch already know I’m taking a very novel, if risky approach.

Oh, and for good measure, I’m making a German version – Tilo im wirklichen Leben – in the hope – at a time when hope is in short supply – of reaching a wider audience.

The above image is a photograph taken during the shoot of The Devil’s Plantation.

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